Staying positive as a musician

Since I returned to the world of music in 2014 I have had up times and down times. It feels like it’s been months of hard work with occasional fleeting hopeful moments. Logically I know this is normal, but knowing doesn’t make it any easier. I feel time slipping by quickly without major accomplishments that would help keep me going.

After work I practice music and then I work out. Playing music is supposed to be fun, and it is fun, but it can also be frustrating to spend time practicing and then to be unable to sing or play as well as I want to. I’m a perfectionist which makes this worse.

I’m especially hard on myself about my voice, because I know I can get better at guitar with continued practice, but singing feels different. It’s much harder for me.

I need to regularly remind myself that I just started fingerpicking on guitar a few months ago. And that I never really knew how to sing when I was in bands before.

Last night I practiced for two hours, and when I played my last song there was something different about my voice. I don’t know if it was real or imagined, but it sounded different. It sounded good. And I thought to myself “holy crap, I can sing.” I want to have more of those moments.


Recording music at home

I’m feeling this vlogging thing. Seems dorky at times (yes I’m talking about you, selfie stick), but I love the DIY nature of making my own videos. And when it’s done well it can be super engaging (see Casey Neistat for example). I started off trying to film and edit the videos on my iPhone but I broke down and got Final Cut Pro for editing and now I’m much happier.

I have a couple of new videos where I’m talking about recording music in my small and noisy studio apartment in San Francisco. It’s slow going but feels good to make progress, and I can’t wait until I have some real music online for people to listen to.


On-location recordings of acoustic music on YouTube

YouTube is a great source of recordings of live acoustic music.  There are a bunch of channels dedicated to filming musicians in different locations, some in studios, some in random bedrooms or outdoors in parks.

Sure, music that’s recorded in studios is nice, but live acoustic performances have a spontaneous rawness that can be lost in the hours of overdubs often involved in studio recordings.

When I started recording in the eighties, audio recording equipment pretty much sucked. Or at least the gear that I had access to. It was big and expensive, microphone choices were pretty limited, and the digital stuff didn’t sound good.

With the shrinking of electronics and the huge range of inexpensive microphones that are available today, it’s possible to get a great sounding recording with a portable digital recorder (or a phone) and a few cheap mics. Of course the engineer still needs to know how to record, and above all, the performance has to be good.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite channels that post videos of acoustic live music performances. They’re mostly focused on indie folk. Tiny Desk (from NPR Music) seems to be the most well known of the bunch, but the others are well worth a listen also. It took me a while to find these channels, so perhaps this list will be useful to someone else. I’ll add more as I come across them. Check them out to hear some inspiring performances.


Britton Zogg







le bruit des graviers

The Line of Best Fit


Moon Mountain Sessions

NPR Music


Small Sessions




Talking about age and music

I’ve been thinking about how my age might affect my re-entry into the music world. I’m not that old, and I don’t feel old. But I’m old enough that it makes me wonder if there are other musicians who had some “success” with their music later in life without building a music career through their 30s and 40s.

I’m more aware of late bloomers in the art world, but popular music seems to be much more youth-focused.

Since I define success as being happy with my creative output, I’m not worried about this. I’m determined to do my own thing regardless of the prospects.